tv The Civil War General William Rosecrans CSPAN July 5, 2019 10:10pm-10:46pm EDT
and every weekend on cspan3. >> next on american history tv, william kurtz at the university of ray a virginia talks about union general william rosecrans career and reputation and crashes with superiors such as ulysses s grant and secretary of war edwin stanton. this was part of a day long conference as part of school's center for civil war history. >> so it is my distinct pleasure to introduce our first speaker of the afternoon, dr. william is the kurtz now center managering director if you haven't been able to glean how important he is at the now center. i want to say how important he is to everything we do at the now collected. he is completing an collection.
soldiers of the cross the authoritative text out sometimes later this spring. working a biography about some guy that he is talking about today. a rosecrans guy. but he is also again instrumental to everything that we do at the center, especially to our digital projects to black virginiasens and blue and the uva unionist. he is fundamental to our undergraduate internship program and public events like this. i would like you all to join me in welcoming will kurtz [ applause ] >> they don't let me usually talk at these things. and i'm afraid you're about to find out why. rosecrans is kind of a downer. so a moment of levitty before we
get into this. i think this is perhaps the first time maybe the last time we'll talk about him during our day together. gary may have mentioned him briefly in his talk. but after he mentioned grant's name the fifth time i kind of tuned him out. but i don't hate grant. i hope you take that away from this talk. in fact i think gnat failed relationship between general grant and general rosecrans and rosecrans and pretty much everybody else who was his superior was detrimental to the union cause. and so i'm going to talk a little bit about general rosecrans, how it's more than just him and what you read about him, and ulysses s. grant's memoirs. and then also just give you some general thoughts about how his issues played out over the various theaters he served in during the war. for much of the conflict, the union war effort lacked effective command structure that could coordinate campaigns
between different armies and across different theaters sometimes between within the same theater. instead petty jealousy political differences and bitter rivalries between northern generals and government leaders saw them fighting each other almost as much as confederate enemies slight exaggerations but in some case it was true. at new york herold journalist remarked jealousy did more actual damage during the war than incompetency, end quote. perhaps a little bit a little bit of overstatement but let's test that theory today. union leaders shared goal of defeating the confederacy was put aside often while they grappleden a maneuvered more troops, supplies and more prestige. secretary of war let's give some examples. secretary of war edwin stanton who strongly dislined george b. mcclelden and little mac
supermark inspected. grant never are forgave. staffen fraends waged spirited campaigns against each other when they should fighting the confederacy. i'm not going to pretend the confederacy didn't have its own issues. but i don't do traitors so we are sticking to the union. buy my book there are no traitors in this whatsoever. it's all about the north. now, despite theet four men's differences in intense personality conflicts they were united by one thing. they hated general william stark rosecrans. until his defeat at chicken mogen september 183 however rosecrans was you know one one you know of the union most successful dmarnds. he won important victory in 1861. he defeated two armies in mississippi in 1862. he provided a badly needed and very bloody victory on january
2nd, 1863 at sfoen's river near murphy borrow tonight. it's in some way the reverse getties berg where at get ys rk as i would argue that you raid the sources and read the political leaders and the newspapers stones river was a very railroad big deal at the time. it was a very hard point in the war for the union and it was a much needed victory, even if it wasn't as decisive as many so of the later ones under grant. he also rosecrans captured the important railway hub of chattanooga was which was the whole point of chicken mogen kban which he tells you many time limits after the war. he even got general james long street to agree to that as well pl whatever you could do to burnish his reputation. rosecrans was a dwout hard workings critic of slavery and treason but he was not without
flaws as i am the first to knute admit as his future biographer. he smoked increasantly slept little. blamed others for mistakes and both air fanten and unforgiving to those failing him. worst of all his self-righteousness made him temperamentally incapable of getting along with superiors. the traits and the personal enemies he racked up over the course of the war undermined his promising career. we see that at the battle of chick moga. the story of his rice all fall considering he served in all three major theaters of the war. so let me begin with a brief biefrpg for those of you knowing nothing about him he was born in 1819 in delaware county ohio. his father was a veteran of war of 1812 and his maternal grandfather fought in the revolution he a military background. in 1838 lacking money to attend
college he applied successfully for admission in west point and despite having virtually no formal education whatsoever rosecrans rose to graduate at the end of his time at west .1842, fifth in his class earning himself a prestigious assignment to the engineering corps. rosecrans is distinguished unlike other generals who won't be named for having so few dparts that they didn't bother recording them or they misplaced them i don't know but i looked. and i couldn't find what they were about. about 30 per year. pretty low. he was so highly thought of actually that he was brought back and served at west point as assist professor for a number of years. assist professors at that time were slightly less valued than they are today because there is no record of what he did there at all. it's only the major professors who have any kind of record if you try to do west point
history. believe me. i looked. he served under dennis mahan for years who was a big fan of history of rosecrans. sometimes in 1844 or '45. rosecrans converted to krolgtism. after being assigned to a series of postings on the east coast he resigned his commission in 1854 went no private business in west virginia and cincinnati and was about to turn a profit in the business when the war broke out. although a douglas democrat rosecrans firmly supported the union cause. he explained his decision to rejoin the army to his wife as coming from quota sense of duty that impeled me to seek post of usefulness regardless of personal danger and i trust that god in his infinity goodness will protect and sustain me in soul and body. religion is all over his core
respondens. in early june rosecrans was appointed chief engineering of the state of myoand few days later he took command of camp chase and the 23rd ohio infantry volunteers as the first colonel. cultivating a smart republics relationship with the lets secretary of treasury he got promoted to brigder general and served in west virginia. although rosecrans early on decided to hitch his star to that as he called him that lucky dog mcclelland his collaboration with little mac would be short and strained. you'll see a pattern here this is where it starts. i can't really find it before the war. it's something about the war that really brings in sort of part of his personality out. the first zput happened in advance. mcclelland got mad at rosecrans for advancing too far possibly alerting the enemy. and he said this. . quote. i desire you here after to act
in conformity to orders and to remember -- husss this is his emphasize i had and not you are in command. in short mcclelland accused the rest krasin of bock insubordinate rosecrans responded saying there is no one more subordinate than me and willing to be a faithful servant to you to par phrase. but nevertheless the damage was done and only a few days later little mac complained to his wife that quote i have not a brigder general worth his salt. rosecrans is a fussy goose. this is the first of several byrd metaphors that haunted rosecrans the rest of his life. anyway, i'm keeping the audubon joke for the -- the round table. but anyway let's move on over the next few days the two men came one a plan that called for an attack a two-pronged assault which is very difficult and for civil war that's why chancellorsville is so darned impressive.
the two prong assault to attack confederate forces near richened mountain rosecrans had the harder part advancing over pathless mountains in satisfying southerners in the rear on the flank to the south while mclegal clelland wait ford a battle to begin and then theoretically attack. rosecrans held up his part of the deal and attacked july 2nd. leading to the abandonment of the confederate position. one observer note nad mcclelland sat there with indecision stamped on every line of his countens and did absolutely nothing. now, little mac did credit rosecrans for the quote very hand some manner in which he planned and directed attack on the bill rebels at hart's farm but little mac gave himself the credit for kwon receiving the skault backup although rosecrans assumed mcclelen command and went to replace mcdowell in the more important part of the eastern theater, rosecrans
resented not getting his proper due. in fact journalist white law reed, off and on again friend of rosecrans remarked remembering that rosecrans was very loud and denouncing what had happened to him his staff to his fellow officers and his fellow journalists such frank criticism is beefed by one biefrpger reached mcclelland and didn't do anything to endear him to his former superior. rosecrans to make a long story short you have in it into the time line there. rosecrans fought successful victories in west virginia after mcclelland's departure but miss real enemy was the horrible terrain, difficult supply situation and the winter in west virginia, not so much the confederates he faced. he managed to basically hold them off. they weren't able to regain western virginia territory in that sense. his generalship was successful.
but unfortunately for him he proposed after going into winter quarters that he would lead an assault on winchester have to put pressure on the south and that plans as you can imagine when it got to mcclelland who is not happy with rosecrans was basically rejected. in fact, john c. fremont ricking for a new home to lose battles in took his job and he lost his job in a totally political manner. he couldn't believe it. and this is the start of his trust issues, as you can imagine. he doesn't really understand what's going on to him. appealing to the secretary of war for a new position, rosecrans was given the thankless task of baby sitting a division being sent to reinforce the shenandoah valley. while there. rosecrans displayed his
admirable strategic in many senses initiative, understanding of the where and said, look, you've just replaced my single kpand with a bunch of different commands. you should really have some overall commander here to prosecute the war. and take it to the confederacy and capture the shenandoah valley. stanton was incensed. he wanted had imto obey orders and do shut the -- shut up. i do not want your ideas just obey. this is something rosecrans has problem was in fact one of stanton private secretaries wrote to him and said stanton has taken a dislike to you, which is stanton has taken a dislike to you. his days are already numbered. now if rosecrans's suggestions had been followed perhaps stonewall jackson's ability to exploit the union divided union command structure might not have happened. and he liked to point that out after the war. fortunately for rosecrans, he was sent to mississippi and got as far away from edwin stanton
as he could and he went to command under john pope in in mississippi. when pope was promoted and sent east. rosecrans took over the army of mississippi. hal okay the was promoted that receives grant in charge of western forces including the army of mississippi that rosecrans is head of. the two men got along well together. they had known each other at west point, they were friendly. cross-rosecrans equalled called grant a honest man to his wife after meeting him in mississippi. grant said i regret that rosecrans has not got rank equal to his merritt. he said that to henry hal okay. wanted him to get a promotion. he was a brigder general in charge of an army. he was miffed about this. general rosecrans and grant actually worked closely together the to deal with the emerging threat of the confederate offensive that -- was just taking place in kentucky and tennessee but also a parallel one we forget about in
mississippi as well. rosecrans decided that his -- his strategy at rich mountain was basically worth a second try. at the battle of iuka the battle plan woos to wait and hold firm as rosecrans got in position. attacking price at the same time and catch in a pinser movement they were so badly separated and communication broeks down what happened is rosecrans's outif you meaned forces were unable to cover all the roads he agreed to cover. and he put -- he decided caution was better than being a little bit too aggressive and as he didn't know what was up with grant. grant or did not attack as planned. there was an kuwaitic shadow that peremptoried the battle from being heard where they were. some people say. my good friend -- i won't get flew that that's another subject.
but anyway, price is able to escape off that unguarded road. and grant is very, very pleased with rosecrans's performance. he says i can't speak too highly of the energy and skill displayed by general rosecrans in the attack. however, unfortunately journalists friendly to rosecrans or known to be friendly to rosecrans to were behind rumors that grant had been drunk again at the battle of ayuka this gets back to grant's staff they blame rosecrans for in this is plays out in a you'll see in adequately is an even bigger problem was van doren's army which moved to is attack the strong hold of koran mississippi. rosecrans was able to hold him off after a couple of keays of battle. but grant and rosecrans couldn't decide whether or not to pursue van doren and ultimately rosecrans was recalled. at this point the relationship is basically completely failed.
there is mutual recriminations. i see that i'm going way long because i did the jokes that i promised myself i wouldn't. and so i'm going to say basically that the relationship is a failed one. complete mri and utter failed one. and as an aside it seemed that the two staffs that the two generals were more concerned about buffing their own guys reputation than they were about attacking the confederates. the idea that you would relieve rest krasin of command for having one two battles seems crazy. but john rollins was for it and got grant's wife behind this skoem as well to try to get rid of rosecrans. but fortunately rosecrans is appreciated by lincoln i guess from his point of view opinion. and he is sent to take over what would be the army cumberland. rosecrans said we are to cooperate as far as possible to support each other's operations but we will see that did not happen at all.
in fact the two of them didn't correspond at all except on the most trifl matters. sometimes any relied on other generals to inform them of what the other was -- other was doing. so rosecrans spent a couple months getting the army of the cumberland back into shape. and he would lead the army of the cumberland south of nashville to attack general bracketen brag at the battle of stone's river the way the union names it. unfortunately for rosecrans, bragg attacked first and drove him back. and so rosecrans had to stabilize the position -- it was very the desperate. phil sheridan's men did some tremendous fighting to save the position. rosecrans rushed in reenforcements and rosecrans rode around perm rallying his men as well. this is something that a lot of people remark on after and remark on positively. so a existential of these
things. and then resituating his lines so that when the confederate assaulted again two days later they are decimated by union artillery and bragg retreats in a very, very bloody battle considering how many people were engaged. but fws a welcome victory. a welcome victory after union defeats at fredericks rk and outside of vicksburg, just in the week before december. abraham lincoln wrote, quote,ed god bless you and all with you. he and stanton assured him whatever he wanted he would get and hold them to that promise and they would regret it pb, as long as he was in command your country owes you immense wrote his ben factor saman clays. god grant you make gaud quad drubl the obligation. the leading republican newspaper harper's weekly praised the war democrat rosecrans as a strategist quote second to none and "the new york times" declared him they said at the present moment general rosecrans
it success be the standard stands at the very head of the union generals. end quote. and there were all kinds of comparison to napoleon, frederick the great, et cetera, et cetera. rosecrans spent most of the spripg of 1863 reorganizing his army. standardize attention regimental arms. repairing his lal network and amassing supplies. as the months wore on, washington became impatient. they wanted to know why he wouldn't advance. he explained that he didn't have sufficient cavalry, sufficient replies high pressure his supply network was too ten ewous. and he was still waiting the promised supplies. after receiving a request for additional reenforcement from one of cross-rosecrans officers stanton said or is alleged to have said he should not have another damned man, end quote. and the throughout this time while grant is attacking vicksburg rosecrans is thinking about advancing but he doesn't.
and there is -- grant will write to hal okay about this but what he should have been doing is writing to rosecrans and rosecrans should have been writing to grant. and the complete breakdown of the replace that happened in mississippi i think is largely responsible for this. partly it's rosecrans's poor generalship to be sure. i don't think he needed to wait that long to finally advance. but it's really this personality conflict that drives it. finally he advances june 24th with a series of faints drives braksen bragg's arm out of middle tennessee in what was known as the tulahoma campaign. he again feels miffed that stanton implies to him that this is not as important as the battles of vicksburg and getties rk and rosecrans replies you do not observe to the fact that this army has driven the rebels from midland tennessee. i beg on behalf of the army that the war department may not
overlook the event because it's not written in letters of blood. again he repaired the railroad. rereply the army and ask for more cavalry. try the patience of hal okay and stanton and even lincoln who was his sincere friend throughout this thing. unfortunately for rosecrans, and lincoln and washington, they were completely caught off guard we he made the next movement to capture the important city of chattanooga. he did a -- again maneuvered bragg out. bragg had no choice but to rereceipt from him rosecrans thought bragg was in head long retreat. and he really wasn't. in fact he was about to be reinforced by trps from mississippi and froops from the army of northern virginia. which thanks to general gordon meade didn't have a lot to do to fend off old gordon after getties rk -- sorry that was kind of a low blow. the confederates showing a much better strategic sense of
importance of cooperation across theaters brought those men in, achieved numerical superiority every oh the union foes and thanks to a terrible, terrible mistake on the second day of the battle drove rosecrans and his men from the feemd in disarray only general george h thomas remaining on the field to salvage the battle for the union side. rosecrans would retire chattanooga and he would again prepare for the siege that ensued from the confederate forces fort fie energetically. he would make plans to open up supply lines. he had again issues with a supply line cut by superior confederate cavalry. looked kind of bad. it was a bad situation. and he really wanted to impress this. he felt like he needed to tell washington that, you know, this is -- this is -- i really need the troops washington responds by eventually transferring
troops from mississippi and from the army of the potomac to eventually relieve union forces there during that siege. now, at the same time that they do this, lincoln decides to put grant in overall command in the west. and grant i think rately realizes he couldn't work with general rosecrans. regardless of past successes he relieved him from command which was effective on october 19th. rosecrans is to so embarrassed he left in the middle of the night he couldn't face his men as he said. now, while grant and stanton hoped that this was the end of rosecrans once and forever lincoln promised to give him another go. and he was sent to missouri. and in missouri rosecrans -- he suggested a bold strategy of combining union commands just lake he did in the shenandoah valley. and basically sweeping from missouri down through the gulf in a -- in large, very
perhaps -- perhaps impossible -- impossible perhaps far-fetched plan. but he was basically yoefrld saying that actually we are supporting general banks in texas. we know how that went, right. that didn't go well either. rosecrans was in a back water theater. and he had to fight off a vicious girl o guerilla war. but he also got blinder at this point and didn't realize he was in the back water theater. and he doggedly and stubbornly rchzed to transfer troops and pleaded his case for needing his troops to protect the citizens of missouri. this absolutely enraged grant who said to hif wives general rosecrans never obeyed an order in his life that i have heard of. when he was relieved grant was asked by stanton after -- after rosecrans successfully stymied price's invasion in missouri once relieved again in early
december of 1864 stanton asks what should i do with him. >> grant says rosecrans will do less harm doing nothing than on duty. i know no department or army commander deserving such punishment as the infliction of rosecrans on them. as you can zeros krasin was upset and sad at this point he spent the rest of the war? cincinnati. he would exchange layers or try to exchange letters with grant asking the cause of his removal this time. he appeared before the joint committee on the conduct of war trying to vindicate his record during the conflict. and he -- over grant's objection he would promoted to major general in the regular u.s. army for his conduct at stone's river. nevertheless, neither man forgave each other. rosecrans trying to block a pension bell bill for the dying president in 1885 with grant returning the favor by savaging
rosecrans's reputation in his memoirs. i hope you see this is part of a rj laer story, the unfortunate story of rosecrans and his inability to get along with others. unfortunately the men in blue were the victims of this. they were the victims of the inability to cooperate, the inability to exploit the fact that grant had one army bottled up in vicksburg and bragg had been reduced in forces. and rosecrans's -- if he had attacked earlier maybe the battle at chick moga would not have been even a possibility. so while it's important to remember thoets partnerships that won the war, sherman grant, sheridan. you should also think about maybe some of the failed replaces that perhaps pro long the conflict more than it needed to be. thank you.
[ applause ] >> did he remain in the army until he retired? or what was his post-war career like. >> so he was given a long leave of absence, which was extended several times. he had made friends with andrew johnson while they were in tennessee together. and essentially he is not -- he doesn't retire until early 1867. so he is still there as part of the army technically. but he decides to seek his fame and fortune in the west rather than sticking it out in the army under general in chief grant. >> what role did politics play in his getting promoted? you mentioned his support from secretary of the treasure chase. but i was struck by the fact that grant removes him only after the election of 1864, as
this rather biting comment about him. how did he get there to begin with grant could have reance insane add him or send him to cincinnati right away after chick mauga. >> the evidentiary explanation for that is limited. because if you look at grant successfully getting more and more angry with rosecrans for not realized realizing he needed every man he could to prosecute the conflict in virginia, he is trying to relieve him even before price gets to missouri. and he constantly. just lake he wanted to get rid of thomas before nashville. he wants to get rid of rosecrans many many months before he finally does. i can only surmise that lincoln had something to do with it, that somebody -- especially it's generally accepted that rosecrans wasn't relieved until -- or wasn't put in a position where he could be relieved by somebody like grant in 1863 until after the governor -- gubernatorial elections in ohio, the election he is of 1863 when when i was a
big supporter of the republican candidate at the time. so he was seen as a very useful political tool by the lincoln administration. in fact he was sounded out to be lincoln's vice president in the 1864 election because he was a war democrat with a large hely successful record who hated slavery and really hated treason. he was -- he was looked at as a political asset by some. >> there is a port rosecrans in california, i believe. >> yeah. >> how did his reputation resurrected in order to get a port named after him? >> rosecrans has the good fortune of outlasting all of other major generals and the other people who hated him. by the time he dies his reputation is largely restored and he is seen as a hero of the conflict. that would be revised way down every oh the course of the 20th century. but he was looked at as a great hero.
when he was reinterred at arlington. teddy roosevelt came and gave a speech in 1902. so he was this hero figure even despite chick a mauga to many, especially to fellow catholics and throughout the 19th century. and at the time of his death people forgot about the less savory things, the pension bill, the chick mauga, et cetera. and i just want -- can i add a colorful incident about that? i was in san diego recently with my kids. and we were going to get ice chrome. and i got off on some road and it was rosecrans avenue. and i thought that was great. it's fantastic. >> and i think we have to end on this because were about 2:10 with i saw kurtz avenue my god it's a sign kids. i looked around if process -- i looked around and i said adult video store. linger store. and that looks like a pay by the hour motel.
i don't know what in bodes for my project but i don't think it's good. anyway, so that's kind of -- that does say something about the mixed legacy i don't know what does. thank you very much. [ applause ] in holiday weekend on american history tv, saturday at 10:00 p.m. on real america, the 1970 film honor america day, the july 4th separation of the national mall featured bob hope and billy graham. >> never hidden problems and faults without freedom of press and open communication we don't sweep our sins under the rug. if poverty exists if racial tension cases, if riots occur, the whole world knows about it. instead of an iron curtain, we have a picture window. >> and sunday at 6:00 p.m.
eastern on american art i facts, living history hobbyist craig who will discuss as soviet cavalry officers and discuss the role in world war ii. >> one month before d-day we had been occupying maybe 67 of the best general troops fighting us. if we had failed at moscow or stalingrad or kursk all of those toops could be on the normandy beaches and could have been a different outcome. the story that has to be told is that's a significant contribution to winning the war. >> watch on american history tv on cspan3. american history tv products are now available at the new cspan online store. go to cspan store.org to see what's new for american history tv appear check out all of the
cspan products. next on the civil war, university of cincinnati professor christopher phillips talks about the way tactics and ideologies from the western theater such as guerilla fighting influenced other theater thes of the civil where. this was part of a day long conference hosted by the the university of virginia center for civil war history. >> okay. so our final speaker of the day is do christopher phillips. who is the john and door hi professor of american history at and the university of distinguished professor in the arts humanities and social signs at the university of cincinnati. he is the author of seven books on the civil war era including the rivers ran backward, the civil war on the remaking of the american middle border, which is right back there in the back. and this --s